How I Met Your Mother is arguably one of the funniest sit-com copy-cats to binge-watch when we find some spare time. It’s somehow different enough from the classic Friends to have its own cult following, but similar enough to re-light joy in the hearts of former Friends fans. If you are unaware of this series’ premise, it focuses on the lives of five friends living in New York City. Ted Mosby is a romantic architect on a search for true love, Marshall and Lily are the perfect couple, Robin Scherbatsky is Ted’s main love interest and independent journalist from Canada, and Barney Stinson is a beloved rapist. I hope the last part of that sentence caught you off-guard.
Similar to The Big Bang Theory’s underlying misogynistic messages, How I Met Your Mother masks their messages in hilarity and ignorance. The seemingly liberal show actually sexualizes, objectifies, and brings down women in every single episode, not to mention makes men look like mindless pigs. It takes watching the series a few times to let it bother you.
Let’s talk about Ted and his gang’s treatment of women he parades around in his search for love. In one episode, they judge these women by playing a game called “Name that Bitch.” They dig to find the thing wrong with the girl, and in other episodes make lists of who they favor, and who they like least. Any one of these five million women could have been good for Ted – but he needed the perfect one, and his friends encouraged that ridiculousness. In one episode, they get after him for being so picky, but other than that they egg him on.
Ted ends up finding the perfect woman; she does the crossword, she wants a boy and a girl, she plays the bass – everything Ted looked for. This gives unrealistic standards of what women have to be, and who men should look for. The truth is you cannot find the perfect person you built up in your head. You find the person worth the compromise.
Lily and Robin even have a quip about how if a girl hates you when you first meet her, then you are lucky because it means you are intimidating, which apparently is a good thing? Girls and women are nice, and should be presented as such. Lily and Robin are not welcoming to the women who date Ted, which is really hard for an outsider trying to impress their significant other’s friends and make some of their own. Another aspect of the show I have always found disturbing is Robin’s treatment of a minor character named Patrice. Patrice signifies femininity; she is sensitive, thoughtful, affectionate, intuitive and kind. She always does nice things for Robin, and yet Robin despises her. Robin goes as far as attempting to fire Patrice because she was jealous of her when Barney showed interest in Patrice. She screams at Patrice all the time, which is supposed to be funny, but a woman tearing down another woman is simply not funny. Robin signifies the ultimate “cool girl.” She is sexy, smart, and a super-tomboy. She is a masculine character who tears down a feminine character in stereotypical, petty and catty ways. In this way, the show comments on men being superior as well as women being inherently catty and jealous. Everything about it is sexist.
Last but not least, we come to the character of Barney Stinson. As I said before; the lovable rapist. Some HIMYM theorists discuss the possibility of Barney being so terrible because *SPOILER ALERT* Ted is the one telling the story, and he’s jealous of Barney for marrying Robin. Regardless of this being true or not, the producers created a truly disgusting character disguised in hilarity and quotable one-liners.
Barney Stinson has sex with over two-hundred women throughout the course of the show. He is portrayed as a guy with “daddy issues,” and actively preys on women with “daddy issues.” He said multiple times throughout the series that his favorite kind of woman is a “vulnerable drunk woman” or a woman vulnerable in other ways; sadness, lack of confidence, and more. He uses a book called “The Playbook” to lure women in through deceit, tearing down their self-esteem and getting them drunk. Did I just describe a predator? Why yes, yes I did. He also proclaims being an ageist – in so many words, he preys on women in their twenties and girls who are barely 18 excite him the most – and brags about none of the women on his sex list being “fatties.” That’s another issue – this series throws around the word “fatties” like it’s no big deal. Don’t use derogatory words for giggles. Many women actually struggle constantly with their body image, as a result of the media’s treatment of them.
When Barney and Robin begin dating, it is clear from the beginning Barney is a bad match for her. He openly lies, and tells her that “it’s just who he is.” The show romanticizes his lying, making a narcissistic sociopath somehow cute and lovable. In one episode, Robin attempts to sell Barney’s apartment because it is a sex house with hidden cameras to record girls who didn’t consent to sex tapes, and more creations having to do with sex and misogyny. However, Robin changes her mind about selling the place, because while the inventions created by Barney were creepy, they were also too brilliant to throw away. People come with problems, but Robin’s voice was invalidated because of Barney’s brilliance. Often, predators are clever and charming. This is not to be applauded – it’s to be feared.
Every episode talks about sex, but mainly sex and its appeal to men because of women’s bodies. One episode is about “the Blitz” – a word meaning that when friends are out having a good time, you are going to miss out on something awesome. You don’t want to be the Blitz. When you are the Blitz, you miss cool stories and memories. In this episode, when Barney passes the Blitz back to its original keeper, and the audience knows he has gotten rid of the curse when he enters an elevator, and a woman steps in to the elevator. You hear a tear and a scream from the woman, implying that her dress got stuck in the elevator door and rips off. Barney cheers, and the Blitz leaves his body. Wow, how cool and awesome and amazing. A naked lady losing her clothes because of an elevator door mishap. This objectifies women as objects of pleasure.
The series constantly talks about boobs; their size, placement, form, you name it. It makes men look like sexual pigs who only care how big boobs are, and that boobs turn them into animals who can’t control their sexual urges. When Barney or Ted starts dating a new woman, the most important thing to them is “How big are her boobs?” Because apparently, boobs are that important to men, and more important than a woman’s intelligence and heart.
You may still be thinking “it’s just for laughs! It’s just a joke! Don’t be so easily offended.” But women’s oppressions should not be a joke. Since when is date rape laughable? Since when is breaking down women funny? Men are not pigs. We should teach them that they can control their sexual urges, and see women for human beings, unlike How I Met Your Mother preaches. I have been attached to these characters for many years, and still quote the series often. I have found myself in a pool of tears many times because of how attached I became to this friend group. However, it is time to say good-bye. We had a good run, but life is not all about sex, boobs, and disguising predators in a happy-go-lucky sitcom.